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The first of KiwiRail's asbestos-containing locomotives were back on the tracks yesterday after being given the all clear.
More of the 40 Chinese-made DL locomotives will be re-introduced to service over the coming weeks, following the hazard scare at the end of February.
Asbestos-containing materials were found in soundproofing compound inside one of the vehicles, which prompted the withdrawal of the DLs.
They have now been cleaned and sanitised, with car body doors replaced, KiwiRail said, and all have passed air and swab sample tests.
"Remaining asbestos containing materials in the locomotives will be removed within 12 months, and appropriate management procedures and controls will remain in place during his period."
KiwiRail chief executive Peter Reidy said the company had "every confidence [it had] taken all possible steps to manage any risk to our people".
Taking the locomotives off the tracks forced the company to operate on a reduced service which had impacted on businesses and supply chains, he said, but it would be returning to full capacity.
Rail services to Northland are expected to resume on April 14.
Rail and Maritime Transport Union general secretary Wayne Butson said it was good that no test results from the locomotive cabs had shown up positive.
"But our members know that where there is asbestos present in locomotives, risk still remains, and so a very careful process for eliminating the risk to rail staff was needed," he said.
- Patrice Dougan of APNZ